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Comment Re:Question (Score 1) 434

plateauing at a level where they can afford everything they want to consume

Are you f-ing kidding me?
In what alternate universe can the author live to write utter dreck like that?

Any hood will tell you they want to live in a mansion with a pool, servants, drive Ferraris, and get served caviar by scantily clad objects of desire with champagne on the side.

There is no plateau.

Comment Re: The Republicans want to make everyone work (Score 5, Interesting) 1126

That's bullshit. My family came into this country as refugees with almost nothing. We depended on social services while my parents were learning English. I earned my way into school, got a scholarship to go to college. I worked my ass off in college to have a high GPA, worked 20+ hours a week in a lab in addition. I earned my way into an MD PhD program and didn't have to pay for medical school... worked my way into residency and fellowship. In the meantime my parents are earning 5 figures.

United States is the most amazing country in the world, where opportunity is still pretty open. I am so thankful to be here.

For duck's sake, please don't turn it into the country I ran away from.

Comment Re: Outsmart (Score 1) 440

Well, I don't mind too much. I mean, this *IS* a public forum after all, so we can hardly complain if others give comments, thus. ;-)

It's the same as with the original debate viewed on itself: as long as people remain civilised and comment with reason, I can appreciate it.

Anyway, was nice talking with you. Hope we can keep the same up if there's a topic we REALLY strongly disagree at. ;-p

Comment Re: Outsmart (Score 1) 440

I do, and I've done so for years, also in official competition. These last years I've took it back a little and mainly just give chess-lessons to kids. I could have said so to the former poster as well, but I don't like to argument from authority, since that's one of the weaker ways of argumenting.

Ihmo, though, discussions on slashdot have *very little* in common with chess. ;-)

Which doesn't mean all comments are worthless, but... well, there can be awful 'debates' full of diatribe, trolling and flamefesting all over the place, and some reasonably pleasant and calm/polite debates (occasionally). I'm no saint nither in this respect: I'm usually always composed and use logic in my arguments, but if the other party gets personal and what not, I don't have the tendency to back down neither.

But even in a calm and logical debate, it's sometimes clear to point out a 'winner' in the sense one can do it in chess.

BTW, the way you play works, but only at a beginners level. For instance, if a piece of lesser worth takes your 'more worth' piece, even if you can take it back afterwards, you'd still have lost some 'points' (in value/worth). Loose a rook and gain a bishop for instance, and you've still lost about two points. Also, sometimes one makes a deliberate offer, where, indeed, you can take back the piece, but it's actually *meant* that way, and by moving your pawn or other piece for taking the others' piece, you open up a line of attack to create a position of checkmate, for instance.

Ah, well, we're diverging too much from the main topic. ;-)

Point is, it's actually debatable whether humans can still 'play better chess'. They certainly almost can't *win* against the best computers/chessprograms anymore. The question whether those 'understand' chess or are 'smarter' in chess is a difficult one, and mostly depend on semantics. From a meta-view, it's clear computers don't really understand chess the way we do. But from and within the strict domain of chess itself, it's clear that they've become better than us.

Comment Re: Outsmart (Score 1) 440

"And no, no human can do that."

Agreed, but you can look at that as a deficiency of humans, which computers don't have. Grandmasters do it too, but with less success, because they can't remember every game and every position. (Strictly speaking, neither can computers as of yet, because there are near infinite amount of moves and positions, in chess (contrary to, say, draughts).) but of course, not all moves and positions are good, so in reality, if you know a billion openings, midgames and endgames, you'll go a long way, especially if your human opponent has only a few thousand that he can use.

Now, is it smart to use such a 'mapping'. Well, that depends on your definition or the semantics of it. I would certainly claim it's smart to follow it, if you know it'll lead to victory. ;-p

Is it smart in the sense that solely based on that, one can say one can play chess? I think I would have to agree that I don't think it does. Basically, when talking of playing chess, it amounts to knowing the rules itself and how/when to apply them - and calculating what is the best move. Note, however, that computers are getting pretty strong in this area too. The problem for knowing if humans are still stronger in that respect, would be that any player with some strength also knows a repertoire of games (aka, has a database), which he also uses when he can. And if you allow it with a human, you should allow it with a computer. So you'd need a grandmaster that doesn't know any prior games or positions. ;-)

"That assumes that both players are mature and experienced enough to recognize the loss."

Which always happens, the moment players actually know how to play. The only times I ever experienced discussions as a tournament leader is with the -8, -10 and -12 years olds. Starkly decreasing with the respective age-groups. Once you get to the -14 years old, you never have a discussion anymore. I would claim, thus, that the people who didn't accept their loss, didn't know squat about it. I mean it's VERY unambiguous: if they're checkmate, they lost. It's also very clear *when* you're checkmate: if your king is under attack, but you can't move him out into safety or can't do anything else to go out of the line of attack. If one claims one isn't checkmate, one just has to prove one can put their king out of harms' way.

And, as said, if there REALLY is discussion, it's for a third party - who actually knows the game, of course - to decide who has won. In an official setting, that is the tournament leader, and his decision is final, and both parties have to agree to it, whether they want to or not. I can hardly see happening the same on slashdot. ;-)

With a debate, it's far less clear. Yes, you can say 'standard debate rules' apply, but the first problem already arises that there is no true 'standard' concerning rules of debate. You have a lot standard *formats* of debate, where in a given setting, people agree to, but I can't find a generally accepted, official set of debate rules that allows you to actually decide on a winner. That's not to say one can't find rules, it's that they aren't standard. So it would start with agreeing what set of debate rules one is actually going to follow. Secondly, the rules are far more ambiguous than in chess, which means you'll have a lot more doubt and discussion about who 'won' the debate as well. This is inherently true, since those rules leave open much more leeway for interpretation. And finally, you don't have a third party which is officially in a position to decide the winner (at least, not on slashdot) , or where both parties will accept someone as the final arbitrator.

Look at this very same discussion. How is anyone going to decide who is right in the debate and on the question if the comparison of a slasdot-discussion and chess is similar? If I say I'm right that it has little resemblance, and you say it does, and we can't agree on it: what rules will we apply to decide who's right? And if we can't agree on the rules, or our interpretation differs; who's going to be the judge? *IS* there even a way to determine it, and is thee only one answer? You might see a large resemblance to chess - but then again, you admit not playing chess too much - but maybe you are focussing on things I would deem are superficial - like having an certain amount of strategy. Well, some might, and some might not. I don't think all discussions, and I would even claim most on slashdot ;-) involve much preparation or strategic thinking, if you look at it. Since the rules aren't formalised nor clear nor unambiguous, nor is there a definite authority all parties have to adhere too, I don't think it will ever come close to chess. After all, even the very notion of when the debate has been 'won' is relative: we could be arguing over-and-back till the end of times, both arguing the similarities and the differences of a slashdot-debate vs. chess, while finding each others arguments not compelling. In a way, we could both be right and wrong, depending on what you consider to base yourself on to make such a conclusion.

For instance; if someone were to say: they are both similar, because in both you have to use your eyes (or your mind), well... yes, you need to use it in both cases. But does that make the comparison valid? Not in my eyes (pun intended), but it may be for the person thinking this similarity is enough to make the comparison. I would have to disagree, however, but there is no way to convince the other party of this, if they're using another premise or interpretation of it.

Hmm... my...we're digressing quite a bit, but then again, it' a relative agreeable discussion, for once. One is content with the small things one can get on slashdot, these days. I have the impression slashdot deteriorated in regard to having some decent discussions, but then again, it might be nostalgia.

Comment Re:You can't defeat stupid. (Score 1) 440

"and releasing a driving system with such deficiencies is not it."

Apparently it is, since it's legal.

Haven't you defeated your own argument, now? It basically comes down to: the evaluation of comfort versus safety must be done by the people, and people make the laws.

Since it's legal to have cars with auto-pilot, the people have spoken. You seem to think all, or at least a majority of people think as you do. I would want to correct you in this thought. I do not. And I don't think I'm the only one. So, according to your own argument here, if a majority of people think it's fine to have auto-pilot, and one shouldn't blame a producer for the wilful negligence and abuse of the system by some of its drivers, then, ergo, it should be allowed.

Of course, I personally do not like this kind of ennobled 'rule of the mob'. I think decisions should be ruled by logic. And it's true not all laws or rules made by man are very logical (and some are downright illogical and unjust). That said, in this case, it is.

The evaluation should be done by the state, and as I said earlier, should be limited in scope. Safety, as you correctly surmised, is one of the area's in which a state (with its laws) has the prerogative to outlaw something, if it's deemed too dangerous. However, that evaluation must happen in a logical and consistent manner. For instance, if you already allow something which is more dangerous, it is hard to substantiate and defend an outlawing of something that is *more* safe, even when sill not perfect (after all, nothing can ever be perfectly safe).

In this case, it's easy to see that the Tesla, even with his autopilot on, is still much safer than a regular driver without this system. Tesla's have far less accidents in comparison to their mileage then most other cars. So one can hardly argue it's unsafe. Even for cruisecontrol: you seem to think it invariably is less safe, but is it? Have any scientific research that establishes that? After all, it could well be that, after some time, by the fact that a human without it has to constantly focus on the road, and since humans can not focus on something indefinitely with the same vigour, it becomes *more* of a hazard, then having the autopilot on. One can say: "oh, but they should take a rest every hour". Yes, they should. But since you have people not following the rule of keeping your hand on the wheel of the car, I'm sure you'll have those that don't take a rest when they need it. As said, you can't protect against idiots. No method is completely idiot-proof.

And, well, say it would turn out to be more dangerous after all: then still an evaluation has to be done if the extra comfort is worth the extra risk. After all: if we didn't have cars at all - they were outlawed, for instance - no doubt there would be A LOT of deaths less on the roads. Yet we do not see that happening. Which means, just like in your case of going more than 65 km/h, it's a matter of how much accidents or danger is one willing to accept for how much comfort. This has ALWAYS been the case. The fact that you're not allowed to go beyond the speedlimit is based on that evaluation too. Apparently, on average, people going beyond that speed limit on that road, cause too much accidents to still be allowed to do it. It has been deemed to dangerous for the little extra comfort it would give some people.

In the case of an autopilot, it is allowed, so the comfort was big enough, for enough people, to allow the real or perceived risk.

I mean, I get it you do not agree with it, but if you follow your own reasoning, and 'people' decide it's ok, then it IS ok, and you shouldn't have a complaint anymore. I do not think most people would follow your idea about it, or make your kind of evaluation of it, if you'd take a poll. After all, it's still a choice to use it, not an obligation. And most people still have a sense of taking responsibility for their own actions - hollowed out as it may have become in some countries. And the lawmakers seem to agree. So shouldn't you accept it, since it's abiding by your own argument?

Comment Re:You can't defeat stupid. (Score 1) 440

"So people conveniently forget what it says in the manual"

And there we come to the crux of the matter.

But who is to blame, then: the people who 'conveniently forget', or the company which explicitly states it's to be used as an assistance, and nothing more?

You seem to imply the latter... I the former. Maybe it's an USA thing, since I know the tendency there is to shove of ALL responsibility to someone else, anyone else, so long as it's not themselves. And with a bit of luck one get rich of it as well, in the USA. That's why you see warnings on toothpicks in american airlines warning that it should not be used to prick in someone's eyes, and such. As if a normal person wouldn't know that. Is it to cover their ass they put that on it? I dunno. Is it because people otherwise really would do things with objects that they aren't supposed to? Maybe so. But then it's for THOSE PEOPLE to face the consequences of their own stupidity or bravado.

In reality, in most jurisdictions it will be a matter of what one 'reasonable' can assume a normal usage is, and anything above that, is the fault of the user. Clearly, what is considered 'normal' or 'reasonable' differs culturally, seen the obvious differences between, for instance, the USA and the EU in that matter. But it's the same principle.

Since it' clearly mentioned what the normal usage *IS*, for the autopilot, there is not a leg to stand on. Whether or not its statistically a certainty some people will abuse it and use it for other than 'normal' means, is irrelevant to that. The company has no obligation to cater for the stupid and the audacious who ignore their warnings.

In fact, looking at it purely from a Darwinian standpoint, it actually isn't all that counterproductive, since it weeds out the idiots in society.

From a libertarian view, it also quite simple: you have the freedom to use it or not, if you use it wrongly, than that's your own decision. I'm not much for a nany-state which always tries to protect people form themselves. That's only in a limited way necessary for the state, and it's not for a private company. It suffice that they are clear on things, give info about proper usage, give one the freedom to choose, and all the rest, I think is pretty much whining after the facts of not adhering to what has been said.

From the stance of self-interest, it's also highly debatable. Why would the comfort of 99% of the people be denied, because of the abuse of 1% that can't handle it properly? Unless you are arguing 99% use it improperly... but in that case, Tesla does an amazing job at protecting drivers from themselves, and thus they're nanny-ing enough as it is. ;-)

Comment Re: Outsmart (Score 1) 440

"Did you beat me because the reference of past games that was handed to you was more complete than the one that was handed to me?"

The point I was making was exactly that humans do that as well, and one can doubt if using that knowledge shouldn't be considered smart (or not). ALL play is learned, and it's by further study and experience that one gets better. Experience being: also learning, but in the practicality of it. If I do a fork to you, it's a tactic I can use because I learned about it, and/or saw and experienced it before. If I learn EVERY move of a given situation (can only be done in a certain situation, since there are almost unlimited 'free' moves) I can apply every move in it. But it still means I learned it.

So I'm not seeing much of the difference between learning one tactic, or several tactics. As long as you know when to apply (and see that it *is* applicable), one can already consider that 'smart'.

One could also argue - as you do, I think - that knowing the rules is one thing, but it's knowing how to apply them to 'unforeseen' situation that makes you smart. However, then you're merely applying a given set of rules, only apply them to a novel situation. that, a computer can do too. The only times this falters, is where the rule isn't precise, or not precise enough, so it gets stuck in a situation where it doesn't know what else to do.

But the later isn't really indicative of computers alone. If one is a mediocre player, one will not know every nuance of a given situation neither, nor be able to calculate the best move, nor know what to to outside the rules one knows. This is the 'chess'-awareness I talked about, which is still a bit better with humans (at least, the top players), but not by much. Since computers/programs continue to improve at a faster rate than any single player can, I doubt this will last long, if it ain't already so. With every match, a horde of chess-players improve upon the program, noting little differentiations and fine-tuning it evermore, making the knowledge of all the rules immer better. Which is why I said a champion is, in a certain sense, playing against hordes of chessmasters from the past to the present.

Now, one can say the part of just 'comparing' against a database isn't 'smart' and shouldn't be considered part of the chessgame, but that would be faulty. Chessplayers, and certainly the top-players ALSO learn and know myriads of games that were played in the past, and also fall back on that when it can be applied. We didn't use to have any problems with that, and also considered it part of their prowess in chess, so I don't see why we should now deny that, because computers do it a millionfold better.

To be fair: if you don't allow it for computers (in regard to evaluate how 'smart' one is), one shouldn't allow it for humans neither. However, while computers would be affected by that more, it would also mean a drop in ELO for the better players among us. It would sort of mean you'd only allow a comparison between a database-less computer and those humans that know the rules, but never have studied and learned any prior openings, middlegame and endgames, for instance. I hardly think you'll find any master, let alone grandmaster, who knows NO openings and thus doesn't have any 'database'. You'd be back to the lower tier, meaning an average of, say, 1300 ELO. Well, let someone of 1300 ELO play against a computer (without database too), and the computer will still beat them. That's because even based on mere *calculation* (aka, only knowing the rules, not literally past games or situations), a computer will win against a human without *his* 'database'. You have chess programs that reach 2000+ ELO, yet have no database to fall back on. I don't think you have any human player of 2000+ who has *no* prior knowledge of past played games or openings. So if you comapre oranges to orangs, and not apples, I would still claim a computer is better these days. Does it really understand all the fine nuances of chess? Probably not. But does a 1300 ELO player? Probably not either.

"You might prefer Global Thermonuclear War." ;-)

I'm actually reasonably content if I find someone on slashdot or another forum, who's willing to debate in a calm and reasonable manner. Sometimes ideas just differ, and sometimes the premises one start with is too divergent to come to any fruitful conclusion, but it's highly preferable to just the nonsensical flamefests one sees all too often these days. I would diverge opinion with you, thus, that slashdot is like chess. Chess has clearly defined rules, and you're kept to it in a pretty stringent manner. One can not say the same for Slashdot and most fora. There is not even a clear way to know the winner (being convinced one is, is not enough). A draw... could only happen in mutual agreement (which, granted, can happen in chess too), but not by a default situation. Ultimately, the victor is made clear and accepted by BOTH parties (another big difference to slashdot), and in the very exceptional case where there is dispute, it's the tournament leader that decides who's the victor...yet another huge difference between chess and slashdot.

Comment Re:You can't defeat stupid. (Score 1) 440

The same point it is for all those other cars that have mechanisms to make it easier for humans: to make it easier for humans. I mean, you ARE aware, I hope, that many other cars by now have auto-cruise control and such? Why do they have it? Because it's easier to not have to maintain the same speed with your foot pressing the pedal the whole time. As usual, with ALL things that get automatised for the end-user, and that end-user uses it, it's because it gives more comfort.

The point, as of yet, is to *assist* the driver; it doesn't absolve the driver from driving, nor from his responsibility to pay attention. Maybe instead of 'autopilot', one should call it 'auto-assistance'; that way, pedantic whiners would have less to whine about it.

BTW, no-one is forcing to use the autopilot. If you don't want it, you can drive manually. But if you do use it, and then get careless about it, don't blame your own lack of awareness on the manufacturer. If you can't handle the extra comfort it gives, then don't use it.

Comment Re: Outsmart (Score 1) 440

Human chess champions ALSO learn myriads of chess games from the past, and often base themselves on those. In reverse, current high level chessprograms also 'calculate' a position and give a certain amount of points to certain moves, and take the best out of those. You even have those that actually *learn* from their own play, and some who offer some randomness when they have two options that are equal, making them far more unpredictable, even when in the exact same situation.

Now, I know what you want to say: a computer prog can't really 'understand' the game like we do, and in a certain way, this is true; look at Deep blue versus Kramnik in 2006 during some games. Sometimes, the computer just doesn't realise he's being defeated until the very end. But, of course, that's because some minor things have been overlooked in its programming, like positional advantages of the pawns while standing at the kings' wing. One could say that, if the same 'education' was overlooked with human players, they would exhibit the same thing. Only, humans have more ways of learning things (as of yet), so 'overall' there is less they would have omitted in their chess-education.

Just like you, I used to think it's that 'awareness' that makes the difference, but truth be told, it's not. I realised some time ago that, within the domain of chess, it doesn't really matter *how* you get that awarness; ultimately, the computer/program will be able to simulate awareness of chess that equals or surpasses everything a human can do. That's because it continues to learn and be 'educated', without limit, while a single human can't.

In essence, the single human isn't loosing to the computer, but to the gathered knowledge and effort of thousands of grandmasters and dozens of programmers.

Of course, in the end, it's the computer delivering it.

So one can as well argue it is, or it's not, 'loosing against the machine'. But loosing it is, and the more it becomes self-learning, the less the difference makes any sense anymore. It's just that a human can learn less, and has less time and had less 'educators'. A human also bases himself on other games, only his 'database' is a million times smaller than that of a chess-computer, he also calculates moves and positions, but he does it a million times slower, and he also is self-learning, and there he's still a bit in the lead. But won't be for long.

So, I'm not sure their is an intrinsic difference anymore. It becomes a bit of semantics. When is one 'smart'? In fact, if I would beat you in chess, am I then 'smart' and you not? that would depend on how you measure 'smartness'. Idem with the computer and man debate. But as far (and only) the domain of chess goes, one can as well acknowledge the computer is better at it by now.

And so will it go with every domain.

and the last domain for an AI, will be what we call 'self-awareness', and there you'll have the same discussion in the far future: is it really self-aware, or does it give a perfect imitation of self-awareness?

And there too, one will come to a point where it doesn't matter anymore. If you can't distinguish anymore between the imitation and the real thing, the point becomes mute.

Comment Will sun stop shining after Brexit??! (Score 1) 197

People should give all this hyperbole and pent-up claims a rest.

The Brexit will be a bit of a re-adjustment for a couple of months, especially after (finally?) invoking article 50, but all in all, it'll just be a footnote in history. In 5 years time, no-one will even remember what the fuss was about, and things will continue to run as they did before.

But I *DO* expect the politicians to keep their word and brexit. They said they would abide by the referendum, well, the people have spoken, whether one likes it or not. If you're not going to keep yourself to the referendum when the outcome doesn't suits you, you can as well hold no referendum at all, then. that remains true, EVEN with the absolute deplorable and saddening - and despicable, in fact - behaviour of the top 'Leave'-advocates, who now seem to curtail and do everything to *not* leave the EU. It's incomprehensible. What kind of cowardly fucktards are they? I actually think they were right to leave, but for gods' sake, what a bunch of wussies, once they've won.

Point is, the referendum was clear. The remain lost. Deal with it. Now whining for yet another referendum doesn't make any sense at all. I mean, let's say the other side gets 52%, then. What then? Can the 48% of the populace then not ignore the outcome too, and don't they then have the same right in demanding yet another, third referendum? Ad infinitum.

No, the outcome was clear, the people have spoken... leave the EU. And do it now, not in 6 months. It'll already take 2 years to negotiate the departure as it is, and Junkers made it clear there were to be NO negotiations *before* article 50 ws invoked.

Comment Re:The 109 can't actually know that... (Score 1) 470

"b) We don't have hundreds of years of experience with plastic. Or many oil derivatives. Or electromagnetism in devices held next to your head. And yet all the same scaremongering bollocks applies to those too."

This is untrue. What you describe there, is akin to saying "we don't have hundreds of years of experience with modern medicine neither". Indeed, we haven't. And as we've seen, sometimes it *DOES* go wrong. The difference there, that, once it did, we were fairly easily able to withdraw that medicine and make sure it was nowhere to be had anymore. Once you stop production, you stop the product, period.

Not so with living organism - including GMO's, of course. Say something went wrong with a GMO, let's say it came into contact with some wild variant, it becoming a hybrid with its seed or pollen gotten poisonous. Now, try 'recalling' that. You can't. As long as the hybrid has a Darwinian advantage it will and will REMAIN in nature, even if it's ecological disastrous for other plants and animals, humans included.

Now, one can say how unlikely this is, but you can never say it's impossible. Especially when transferring inter-species genes, we simply do not know the long term effects, when it comes into contact with wild variants, spreading over several generations, with all possible mutations in it accounted for. Yes, mutations happen in nature too, but at least in nature there won't be swapping of whole gene-sequences of completely different species, like that of insects and plants. This does not mean it's inherently dangerous or unethical or whatever, but it does mean we have no clue what it will do and how it will interact 'in the wild' in any long term way. We just don't know.

Which means, we don't know IF there's going to be a long term ecological effect because of it. Which in turn means, if there is such an effect, it's near impossible to put the genie back into the bottle, because - contrary to your plastic, oil derivatives and electromagnetic devices - you can not simply reset everything by calling the products back.

In fact, it's quite easy to se the danger, and the more 'volatile' something is, the more apparent the danger is. Imagine Monsanto is expanding its domain and it's not only researching and manipulating plants anymore, but bacteria and viruses. So they create some air-born viruses that they proclaim are very beneficial to, say, the muscle growth of cows and pigs. They proclaim their tests show it's safe.

But are you then REALLY going to trust wide spread viruses, which are airborn and prone to mutations to be released in the wild, knowing that humans are not cows or pigs, but mammals nevertheless?

I think NO-ONE would allow that, and with good reason. And this is regardless of how much Monsanto says it's conducted research to show how safe it is. It's because it's obvious the RISK is too great. And once it's out there, you can't put it back in the lab.

Now, the same principle applies to plants and animals. Yes, it's less prone to mutate into something dangerous, and it's less likely to cause direct harm to humans, but there is still a risk, especially for an ecological impact - after all, we can already see the impact of (natural) exotes coming into another ecological niche with devastating consequences, sometimes. The main problem remains: IF something goes wrong, it's near impossible to get rid of it entirely anymore afterwards.

Comment Gazing the future: attack of the Food Giants (Score 1) 470

Gazing the future

Recently, I (re)stumbled upon an article called "Environmental Heresies". A good and interesting read for sure, but, like with all these kind of articles, the author (futurologists, they are called, I believe) makes the same basic mistakes as all his predecessors. I'll give some rebuttal and criticism:

His first point, about slowing demographics, is not very much disputable: it is as it is, and if it's in decline, it's in decline. However, whether we will level out completely, or go down, or up again, is not as clear cut as he seems to portray. The author gives as main reason that people go to cities, but I think this explanation is inadequate, and certainly not enough to explain the changing demographics.

It should be noted, for instance, that, during the middle ages, the amount of children born in cities were no less then those on the countryside. What *did* change, though, is the empowerement of women (most notably in matters of procreation) and social and medical advancements. THOSE are the real reasons why demographics change. It also follows that, if, by some disaster or serious economic and scientific decline we would degrade into former levels of welfare and reduced possibility for women to control any family planning, demographics would go up again. It is therefor not an absolute certitude that the world-demographics will continue to decline...this is only true as an extrapolation, if everything remains more or less the same. However, it is exactly the danger of this sort of extrapolation that the author is (also) lamenting against.

As for genetically modified (GM) crops, I fear he really simplifies the subject too much to be useful in making a rational decision about the pro's and cons. Basically, he over-optimistically only conveys the pros, while barely mentionning any of the cons - as if they were unimportant.

It should be noted however, that with living organisms, you can not simply test it out in the wild, and then expect to be able to put the genie back in the bottle when things go wrong. Once you contaminated a natural area, and the contamination has a sufficiently advantage (in a darwinistic sense) to stay around in the genepool, there is no way in hell you can get rid of it completely, when it turns out it is damaging humans, or other species and ecological systems.

Now, his counterargument that those won't survive in the wild seems rather weak. In effect, some GM genes *already* have contaminated other 'wild' crops, and it didn't sizzle out in the wild, on the contrary (a prominent example of that are some strains of GM corn in south-america). So... it may be that some GMs will not survive in the wild, but you can bet some *will*, however. And he, nor anyone else, can garantuee that such GM or hybrid crops can't be damaging or unhealthy to the ecosystem or local species, including humans.

Also, the reductionistic view of "we're not doing anything else then what people have been doing for centuries" is somewhat misleading too. Yes, people have been breeding crops, and cultivated crops are not 'natural' in the sense that they occur in the wild...but it's an unfair analogy, because one is comparing oranges with apples. For instance, with GM, it is perfectly possible to make genemodifications between two completely different species of plants. In effect, this trans-species swapping of genes with GM, can be done between animals and plants. In all those centuries that "we have always done this" I would like to see any example where this has actually been done before.

No; this is a totally new technique, with new possibilities, certainly, but also new consequences (which we don't know anything about) and new dangers. You can't just shrug those of with claiming, falsely, that we've been using those techniques for millenia. And you can't just merrily test it out in the wild, and see if anything happens.

Apart from that, even purely economically, I doubt it has all those beneficial effects the author claims it has or will have - but more about that at the end.

About his weather and nuclear fission chapter... well, I agree with that part, mostly. I do think the greens are just dead wrong in their crusification of nuclear power. Sure, as the author says, it has problems of its own, but those are really minute compared to the far larger and imminent (and worldwide) threat of global warming (ok, I know, there is debate about that too, but I think not many will actually dispute humans HAVE an effect on the climate, though the extend may not be as clear cut). Fine if you shut those reactors down, IF YOU HAVE A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE - but, wishful thinking aside, there currently is *none*. The author correctly points out, that, even if you combine all other alternatives together, you still will only have a fraction of the energy-production needed. Thus, logic dictates that you continue to use nuclear fission, until those alternatives can actually completely replace them (which is doubtful, and in some countries outright impossible), or a new energy-source can replace it (like nuclear fusion reactors).

In any case, the problem of 'global warming' forces us to make choices, and I'd prefer the new, inherently safer NG reactors with their very limited risks and their total lack of CO2, then 'buying clean air' (which doesn't make the air cleaner) or dreaming about alternative energies that can never, pragmatically, provide the energy needed. And it certainly beats the ONLY other viable option: to mass build classic energy-facilities, which use coal or petrol and would constitute an enormous increase in CO2 and extra global warming.

So, in conclusion; the author is fully right about some things, but a bit too simplistic (and, perhaps, biased) in other points. The nuclear/weather point is, indeed, logical. The world-demographics is correct, though there is a need for caution as to determine what is the cause, and if simple extrapolation is enough to make a conclusion. As for the GM-crops, I fear he is a bit misguided himself; this is obvious by the naive assumption of how much 'good' GM-crops will do - which is, I suspect, derived from an overly (and typical USA) optimistic viewpoint on capitalism, which I don't share.

GM-corporations do not care about worldhunger, nor about the living quality of poor farmers in third (or first, for that matter) worldcountries. What matters to them is maximising profit for their shareholders. In the authors' view, this is fully compatible with eachother, but I rather think that, in the end, you can't have both: if it's really about maximising profit, then it is about holding control of the market, and if it's about control, then it's not about the freedoms and abilities and rights of the farmer. This already can be seen by the fact many GM corporations have forbidden the 'seeds-keeping' right of farmers (=the right to keep seeds of one season to use for planting next year). It's an age-old right, giving farmers some independence - but if it were up to GM corps, it would be abolished as soon as possible, so farmers become fully dependent on THEIR seeds. Or they would create plants that don't have seeds anymore, like a lot of GM corps have already done.

No, rest assured, GM foods are not going to solve worldhunger (which is primarily a matter of distribution, not production; there currently *is* already an overproduction in the West of many foods, after all!), nor liberate farmers, on the contrary. Prime examples can be seen at http://www.percyschmeiser.com/... and http://www.percyschmeiser.com/....

This is apart from the equally fundamental objection that I raised earlier, namely that one can not rule out the possibility of (damaging) GM effects that DO survive and thrive in the wild...and which can't be put back into the bottle once released. I doubt many people would be happy if some corp said: "we've got a whole bunch of genetically modified but potentially beneficial viruses and microbes; let's bring them out in the wild!" There, the dangers are obvious to everyone - but with plants, they fail to realise that it is the same dangerous principle.

I leave it up to the readers to determine the worth of my criticism, but at least I think I made some valid points. Indeed, not only historical analysis, but also gazing the future should always been done while using critical glasses.

Comment Re:Makes sense (Score 1) 238

This is the wrong approach, and it suffers from the same things I said earlier. For instance, it would presume the government, in all its wisdom, know which technology it should support with heavy subsidies, and which not. I haven't seen compelling evidence, not even in the last 200 years for such innate wisdom... did you? Saying: 'thanks to that, prices came down'... If you heavily subsidised electric Revolving Ice Cream Cones, no doubt the price will come down too. But so what? The point I've made several times now is: if it's REALLY a far more efficient, advantageous technology, it WILL conquer the (free) market, whether you subsidise it or not. It make take a few years longer, but it will also save billions out of peoples' pockets. In a few circumstances, it might not break through otherwise, but even then: choosing the government as the wise, decisive factor in what is economical the most worthy, is bullocks. So for each sporadic lucky-shot the government had that wouldn't have made it on the free market anyway, you'd have 9 othrs where were fiasco's, costing us billions and billions. So no, thanks: the advantages do not outweigh the disadvantages.

Solar panels and windmills are, in effect, one of the *least* efficient power/electricity providers, if your goal is to have a stable energy for your society.

The truth of the matter is, it's basically one giant waste of taxpayers' money, for no good reason, *but* to provide a bonus to the rich...scuze, me: to 'lower cost'. And where all all these low-cost solarpanels - subsidized with our money - gone to now? Exactly: China. And that's also the main reason (>80%) of why the cost has come down. It's NOT because the rare metals used for it came down, as some seem to think. (In fact, those are sharply rising, due to the demand). It's cheap labor. In China.

So... is that what our own taxmoney is best used for: to kickstart other economies abroad? I don't think so.

"We" didn't get a 'strategically important industry' : the Chinese have. And we paid for it indirectly, through our taxes.

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